Obsession isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The obsessive interest in cooking in recent years that elevated chefs to quasi-god status has created an evolving national palate. (It’s about time!)
Recently I read that, similar to the attention given to inspired cuisine, there is beginning to be a fetish for farmers. (Again, it’s about time!)
Where oh where will the chef gods find the necessary seasonal, ambrosial ingredients if not from small-scale, artisanal farms? Where will people, educated and enthused about the value of locally grown, healthful foods, buy produce, eggs and meat?
What we need are fetish–worthy farmers and lots of them. These are the wise, earthy people who will expand the pleasure you derive from food. Once you’ve become acquainted with French sorrel or an unforgettable heirloom tomato, you’ll gravitate toward small scale farmers as saints of the art of eating well with respect to the environment.
The Greenhorns (greenhorns.org) is an exuberant nonprofit devoted to recruiting and sustaining small scale farmers. As you read their manifesto you realize these people have taken the pulse of the situation:
“It will take thousands of new growers of fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, dairy, and livestock to transform the landscape of sprawling development and corporate control into a dignified, livable, and culturally rich mosaic of ecological farming.” Such is their vision and their determination.
Two statistics reveal the urgency of recruiting the new breed of farmers: 1) Less than ten percent of American farmers are under 35 years of age; and 2) according to the EPA, 3000 acres of productive farmland are overtaken by development each day in this country.
Yes indeed, the modest sized, family farm is almost a relic and mega–corporate food growers and processors have us by the cojones.
It’s a sad paradox that the food we need as our own energy source has become a major drain on the energy of the planet. The mind is boggled thinking of the wastefulness in packaging and the high cost of transport. On every grocery store aisle there are countless examples of the overuse of fossil fuels.
What you don’t see in the store is that as much as 40 percent of the petroleum–based “ingredients” in mass food production is in the form of fertilizers and pesticides. Factory farms are strangling the life from the soil and the environment. Sustainable agriculture restores the heartbeat of the earth.
With this in mind, how can we not think of organic and sustainable farmers as heroic and alluring? We need these valiant folks not only to supply alternatives to heavily processed foods but also because their small-scale farming methods provide large-scale benefits to the natural world and to our communities.
This weekend Savannah hosts the Georgia Organics Conference (georgiaorganics.org) with the extraordinary Vandana Shiva as keynote speaker. Another local opportunity to get involved in the robust national movement to recruit and nurture new farmers!
The most meaningful action you can take to support organic and sustainable farmers is to buy from them. Seek them out. (serveyourcountryfood.net is all about our edible future and the new–style farmers.)
Conversing with farmers at an outdoor market or participating in a CSA is a life enhancing relationship. The farmer gets the direct monetary return and appreciation of the fruits of her labor. The consumer gains a connection to nature and the bountiful harvest from the earth.
There is a sense of belonging to a place that comes from knowing the people who grow your food. Fetishize them if you are so inclined. This is a beautifully healthy obsession.